LBM Expo

December 9-10, 2020
Virtual Event


5 Tactics to Maximize Your Virtual Trade Show Success

By Tom Zimmerman

Video didn’t kill the radio star. In fact, the staying power and proven effectiveness of radio outlasted the days of the “video star” (Coupled with the creation of reality television. Thanks, MTV.). In a similar sense, the Coronavirus won’t kill the traditional trade show. As we are still in a manic wave of the pandemic, we will have to endure life without the traditional trade show for a period of time. But, rest assured, they will return.

We have learned and adapted through the pandemic. Nearly everything is available virtually, including trade shows. Virtual trade shows have become a part of the lexicon of business; much like “Zoom meetings,” “virtual hangouts,” and “social distancing,” it will take some time for the business world to figure them out. Virtual trade shows can be or may become highly effective options, given today’s environment, for companies looking to advance their trade show-based initiatives to reach their audience, drive engagement, and increase connections with their customers.

The concept and the idea of a virtual trade show is still new to most marketers and companies alike. The newness and unknowns of these events can make them a daunting task to prepare for, let alone ensure their success. You can ease these fears and unknowns with a well-thought-out plan, attention to detail, and proper preparation prior to the event. Each virtual trade show and virtual trade show platform will have its own features and benefits, but here are five tactics that can dramatically increase the value you create for your customer and the value you can take away from the trade show:

  1. Attract the audience: Often the “signage” (likely a digital graphic) provided in the trade show platform is limited or a defined size. This may sound crazy, but your brand image alone may not be the best thing to display to attract the audience, especially if you are introducing something new and exciting. Branding is a powerful tool, but the problem in these environments is that if the audience knows your brand, they may dismiss your booth because they already know they aren’t interested or think they already know your offerings well enough. Similarly, if you don’t have immediate brand recognition, why would a logo motivate a virtual visitor to engage with you. Ensure your initial signage is relevant to the show’s attendees by using headlines to create interest. For example, “Enter the XYZ Supply booth to preview our new bullet-proof siding.”
  2. Get to the point: Like a website, or even a traditional trade show, make it easy for the booth visitor to understand what is happening in the booth and to engage with them. If you have a welcome video, keep it short and relevant (i.e., talk about what’s new and/or what’s exciting for them, not a 10-minute history of your company). If the visitor does not see what they are looking for in the first few seconds or the content takes a while to get to, they will “bounce” or leave the booth.
  3. Have Clear Calls to Action: This is not the time to display more of the same. Think about why people visit your normal trade show booth and replicate it. Is it to see product demos, have a conversation with an executive, or to simply engage with their local sales rep? Make those actions easy to find and engaging.
  4. Get out of the booth: Enlist members of your team to participate in the whole show, not simply the booth chats and demos. A virtual trade show often has forums, meeting rooms, roundtables, etc. Plan the engagement activities, communication plans, calls to action, and other measurable items that you want each person to participate in. Make sure the staff and their actions are well choreographed and desired results are outlined ahead of time. Be specific about the things you want them to say and not say (Hint: avoid the dreaded question “Can I answer any questions for you?” as this opening turns more prospects into window shoppers.).
  5. Proactively connect with your audience: One of the safety nets that exhibitors find in a traditional trade show has created complacency in trade show preparation. Most salespeople know that they will bump into their clients on the show floor, so they are hesitant to make show appointments with them before it starts. With a virtual trade show, the clients are not 100% present in the event as they are working from home or their office, they can get distracted with their day-to-day business, and the virtual event will take a backseat to their other priorities. Before the show begins, reach out to these clients and invite them to the booth, set up a meeting time, or simply gain their commitment to check out your content. This will help ensure your customers engage in your booth and benefit from your efforts. Simply gaining their commitment ahead of time will dramatically impact the traffic and engagement in your company through the event.

While the concept of the virtual trade show is new and different, the concept of planning your work and working you plan will prove to be the backbone of success for these events. Deliberately identifying what you want to deliver to the audience and what you want to take away from the event will set the stage for the other actions, accessibility, and customer experience. Attention to these details on the front end will pave the way for maximizing the virtual trade show for your customers and company alike.

Want more insights on how to implement effective marketing and sales strategies? Or take your company’s performance to the next gear? Tom Zimmerman, Principal of SHIFT Sales Training & Consulting, has attended countless tradeshows over the course of his career. His efforts have been integral in helping companies like Trex, AZEK, Boral, and GranQuartz generate millions of dollars of revenue from connections made during tradeshows. Contact him directly at or via phone: 678-314-6896.